Okay, first let me say this: even Nazis have free speech rights. I absolutely defend their right to wear swastikas on their clothes and to wave swastika flags; I defend their right to gather and say ugly, despicable, hateful things. And to do all that in public.
Saturday, a couple dozen Nazis did just that in Orlando, Florida. Gathered, wore swastikas, waved flags, shouted ugly, despicable, hateful things.
Yay First Amendment and all, but Jeebus on toast this is disgusting. If it seems this sort of appalling bullshit is becoming more common, it’s because this sort of appalling bullshit IS becoming more common. The Overton Window has shifted so far to the right that…what?
You’re wondering, “Greg, old sock, what is this Overton Window of which you speak?” Again, stop calling me old sock. And it’s a concept created by a policy analyst named Joseph P. Overton. It refers to the ‘range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time.’ For example, there was time–and not that long ago–when it would have been unacceptable for a politician to publicly support violent insurrectionists attempting to overturn the result of a fair election. That would have been outside the Overton Window, outside the range of acceptable and tolerable positions for a politician to take. Now it’s horrifying common. The window has shifted.
It’s still outside the Overton Window for politicians to support Nazis. But now they can at least cast doubt on whether people wearing swastikas and waving Nazi flags and shouting “Jews rape children and drink their blood” are actual Nazis. A spokesperson for Florida governor Ron DeSantis actually did that. She tweeted (and later deleted) “Do we even know they’re Nazis? Or is this a stunt…?”
No, it’s not a stunt. It’s not like these folks just happen to have Nazi flags and swastika arm bands lying around the house and thought, ‘You know what would be funny? If we put on these armbands and the black uniforms that can be found in most Florida households and stood the street yelling that Jews rape kids…wouldn’t that be a hoot?‘ To even suggest it’s just a stunt expands the Overton Window by implying this sort of monstrous and reprehensible behavior is merely distasteful hijinks.
If you call yourself a Nazi, then you’re a fucking Nazi. If you act like a Nazi and talk like a Nazi and dress like a Nazi, then you’re a fucking Nazi. You don’t need to carry an official Nazi Party ID card. Don’t get distracted by some distinction between neo-Nazis and regular off-the-shelf Nazis; they all just fucking Nazis. This is pretty simple.
The question we have to answer is this: what’s the proper response to Nazis? Ignoring them doesn’t do any good; they’ll just get louder and more crude. What about punching them? I’ve written about this before; if you’re willing to accept the consequences of punching a Nazi, then punch away. I can’t–and won’t–actively advocate punching Nazis, but punching Nazis has real merit.
Probably the best thing to do about Nazis is to close the Overton Window on them. Right now, I’m 100% confident folks on the internet are looking at the photos of these Nazis, studying their faces, learning their identities, and contacting their employers. Very few employers–even those in Florida–are going to want to be associated with Nazis. Make it less acceptable to be a Nazi.
And always remember this: Nazis are like cockroaches. If you see one, you know there are more of the creepy little fuckers hiding in the cracks. They have the right to exist. But we don’t have to make it easy for them.